At­tor­ney de­nies Be­zos’ claims

En­quirer did not use black­mail or ex­tor­tion, he says

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NATION - By Michael Bal­samo The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON — The Na­tional En­quirer com­mit­ted nei­ther ex­tor­tion nor black­mail by threat­en­ing to pub­lish in­ti­mate pho­tos of Ama­zon CEO Jeff Be­zos, an at­tor­ney for the head of the tabloid’s par­ent com­pany said Sun­day.

Elkan Abro­mowitz, an at­tor­ney for Amer­i­can Me­dia Inc. chief ex­ec­u­tive David Pecker, said Sun­day a “re­li­able source” well-known to Be­zos and his mistress pro­vided the story about the bil­lion­aire’s ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair.

Be­zos, who owns The Washington Post, has said AMI threat­ened to pub­lish the ex­plicit pho­tos of him un­less he stopped in­ves­ti­gat­ing how the En­quirer ob­tained his pri­vate ex­changes with his mistress, for­mer TV an­chor Lau­ren Sanchez.

Be­zos’ in­ves­ti­ga­tors have sug­gested the En­quirer’s cov­er­age of his af­fair was driven by dirty pol­i­tics, and the high-pro­file clash has pit­ted the world’s rich­est man against the leader of Amer­ica’s best-known tabloid, who is a strong backer of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors are look­ing at whether the En­quirer vi­o­lated a co­op­er­a­tion and non­pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment that spared the gos­sip sheet from charges for pay­ing hush money to a Play­boy model who claimed she had an af­fair with Trump, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Fri­day.

Asked dur­ing an in­ter­view with ABC’S “This Week” whether he was con­cerned the Be­zos mat­ter could jeop­ar­dize the non­co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment, Abramowitz said: “Ab­so­lutely not.”

Abramowitz de­fended the tabloid’s han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion as part of a stan­dard le­gal ne­go­ti­a­tion.

“I think both Be­zos and AMI had in­ter­ests in re­solv­ing their in­ter­ests,” Abramowitz said.

Be­zos’ af­fair be­came pub­lic when the En­quirer pub­lished story on Jan. 9 about his re­la­tion­ship with Lau­ren Sanchez, who is also mar­ried. Be­zos then hired a team of pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors to find out how the tabloid got the texts and pho­tos the two ex­changed.

Be­zos’ per­sonal in­ves­ti­ga­tors, led by his se­cu­rity con­sul­tant Gavin de Becker, have fo­cused on Sanchez’s brother, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. The per­son wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Michael Sanchez is his sis­ter’s man­ager, a Trump sup­porter and an ac­quain­tance of Trump al­lies Roger Stone and Carter Page.

Abramowitz would not com­ment when asked whether Michael Sanchez was the En­quirer’s source.

Michael Sanchez has de­clined to speak with AP on the record.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors work­ing for Be­zos have iden­ti­fied who they be­lieve pro­vided text mes­sages to the En­quirer, the per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told the AP on Sun­day. Be­zos’ in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded their probe into the text mes­sage leak and turned over the re­sults to at­tor­ney Richard Ben-veniste for re­view and pos­si­ble re­fer­ral to law en­force­ment, the per­son said.

David Pecker

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